Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
Random House: 7/7/15
eBook review copy, 336 pages
Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont is a
highly recommended debut novel about a family in crisis.
Jack Shanley is a well-known artist. He and his wife Deb, a
former ballet dancer, and their two children, Simon, 15, and Kay,
11, live in NYC. When Kay looks inside a package addressed to Deb
that she is mistakenly given, she finds hundreds of printed emails
and a letter from her father Jack's mistress. Kay understands some
of it, but not quite all of it, so she shares the information with
her brother, Simon, who does understand the contents.
When the contents of the box is brought to Deb's attention by her
children, she realizes that she can no longer pretend that she
doesn't know about Jack's (repeated) infidelity. While Jack's
actions have hurt her, the fact that their children know hurts even
more and Deb knows that she must take action. This wasn't Jack's
first affair and won't be his last. Deb decides it would be best for
her and the kids to leave NYC for a few weeks.
Among the Ten Thousand Things brought to my mind the quote:
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called
resignation is confirmed desperation." Henry David Thoreau (Walden).
Everyone can be said to live a life of desperation of some kind or
at some point. What Pierpont does is take this family at such a
time, during the dissolution of a marriage, and show how each member
of the family is affected.
Pierpont takes a radical approach in the organization of her novel
that challenges the usual story-telling sequence. The first part of
the novel is set in NYC at the end of May and presents the discovery
of the affair and the domestic drama that follows. Then Pierpont
tells us in "Part Two, That Year and Those That Followed", what
happens in the future to the characters. Part Three resumes the in
depth story at the start of June and continues character development
right where part one left off. The fourth part is again a concluding
"That Year and Those That Followed" that ties up all the loose ends
with additional information.
I thought the writing was excellent. The unconventional presentation
of the story didn't bother me, but I can see where other readers may
have qualms about knowing the end of the story, so to speak, before
knowing the characters better. Personally, knowing the outcome so
soon was a surprise, but intriguing enough to encourage me to
continue reading to see the details and immerse myself in the
emotional lives of the family.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Penguin First to Read and Random House for review purposes.